Why did you become an adventurer?
Noele opened her eyes, staring up at the wooden ceiling of her room as the question echoed in her head. The words sounded clear as day. The voice of the one who spoke it reached deep into her heart. Her chest ached. She gasped and inhaled. Sitting up, the blonde girl took in her surroundings and whispered.
“Nora—” she called her sister’s name.
And Noele received no response. She sat on her bed in Brynn’s inn, looking at the messy room around her. Her belongings were scattered across the floorboards, artifacts and old documents lying around haphazardly, tossed to the ground from her Bag of Holding.
Getting to her feet, the blonde girl peeked out the blinds of her window and saw that it was already midday. The sun was shining high, and the city was busy with labor and construction, the sounds of banging hammers and clashing metal audible all across Windrip.
It seemed that the reconstruction of the city was going quite well. In fact, Noele heard the Adventurer’s Guild building was going to be officially reopened just today. It had been about a week since Jax the Forsaken Archer left Windrip, and this was going to be the blonde girl’s first off-day from training with Garron.
Mostly because he was needed at the Adventurer’s Guild opening.
Still, she was quite glad she could finally have a day off. Well— she could always have a rest day whenever she wanted, but she refused to take them unless she had a valid excuse like today. But for the past few days, she had felt rather… out of it.
Ever since Noele the Noble Spellsword witnessed the final duel between her mentor and that S-rank elf, her mind had weighed heavily on her head. It was like she walked around with an incessant throbbing headache— one that refused to go away, even when she had taken a few [Alchemist] concoctions to help with it. And she knew why she was so unsettled.
It wasn’t because of Jax’s display of power. She had been amazed at how well he fought— she never expected him to be that strong, even if he still easily lost to Amelia. Rather, it was what he said that put the blonde girl at unease.
“Why did you become an adventurer?” Noele asked no one in particular.
And a response came from her memories.
“To become stronger,” Jax had said.
A simple answer. It should not have unnerved Noele. But again, her memory spoke to her. A soothing voice— the words of her sister.
“To become strong,” Nora had said.
Noele pursed her lips at that. Nora and Jax had… similar answers. They were clearly distinct— but they were so close that they could also be indistinguishable from the right perspective. And that unnerved the blonde girl.
She had respected her sister more than anyone else in the world. To Noele, Nora might as well have been an angel sent down from the heavens above. It was an endless adoration. Without Nora, the blonde girl would have never amounted to anything in life. Meanwhile, Jax was…
“A fucking psycho,” Noele murmured as she got to her feet.
Perhaps it was because of all the rumors she’d heard about him— or maybe it was because he literally ambushed her out of nowhere— but the blonde girl hated Jax. Even if he was the so-called Forsaken Archer— one of the highest-leveled S-ranked adventurers around— he was still a total jerk. He even nearly killed Noele with that massive destructive Skill he’d used in his duel against Amelia!
Although… Amelia probably wouldn’t have let that happen if she didn’t think the blonde girl couldn’t escape. Still, it irked Noele.
She didn’t like him at all. Yet, he had given her the closest answer to the one she’d been looking for since she became an adventurer. She thought it would reassure her— reaffirm her beliefs that led her to taking up this dangerous job. But the fact that it came from someone like Jax meant that it… unsettled her.
It shook her to the very core.
The blonde girl sat back down onto her bed and placed a hand on her chest. Closing her eyes, she asked herself a single question.
“Why did I become an adventurer?”
And, for the first time in years, Noele couldn’t give herself an answer.
The Adventurer’s Guild had been rebuilt. Well, actually, the Adventurer’s Guild was never gone. It was just the building that had been destroyed during the Goblin Lord siege of Windrip. And, now, thanks to the work of a few [Constructors] and [Architects], the building was back once more.
Everyone was buzzing about this news— Guildmaster Evan had given me a formal invitation to attend this grand reopening, and Garron the Steel Tank told me he’d be giving a big speech or whatever since he was Windrip’s very own B-rank adventurer. Sure, Noele and Evan were both A-rank adventurers, but neither of them were local to the city. Apparently, most local adventurers from Windrip tended to leave the city to start their careers as Briar Glen was too dangerous of a region for most F-ranks or E-ranks if they weren’t careful.
Anyways, that meant Garron was a bit of a big deal in Windrip. Like a rather big celebrity in the city. Because of this, a lot of non-adventurers were going to be showing up for the Adventurer’s Guild reopening. Even the [Lord] of Windrip was going to be visiting.
I had no idea Windrip had a [Lord]. He never showed up once after the whole Goblin Lord debacle. Which made sense, since he wasn’t very well-liked. But he was going to be there.
Honestly, I didn’t really see the point in throwing this whole ceremony or whatever. I stood there, facing a wall in the room as the celebration began behind me. I wasn’t just facing an empty wall, of course. I was inspecting the job board they had put in place here. But I didn’t see anything new that piqued my interest here.
“New building, same jobs, nothing different for me.” I sighed, but for whatever reason, I didn’t budge from where I stood.
Noele hadn’t planned to visit the Adventurer’s Guild reopening party, but she was here now. The Noble Spellsword had been an adventurer for ten years now, and she was just about used to everything about this life… except for parties.
She shrank back as she heard the cheering. The rambunctious crowd and jovial ruckus too jarring for her as a [Farmer]’s daughter. Shifting uncomfortably at her seat, she watched Garron stand at the front of the guild hall, raise a mug, and bellow.
“To a new Windrip!” he exclaimed.
And the gathered adventurers cheered with him. “To a new Windrip!”
He laughed and drank with them, speaking with adventurers, commoners, and nobles alike. He downed three mugs before he finally left them, returning to the blonde girl. He was the one who invited her, and so she sat at his table with him.
“Drink, Noele?” He offered her a fresh mug of ale.
“Thanks.” Noele gave him a small nod as she accepted the glass. She wasn’t really a fan of drinking until she was drunk. But she normally enjoyed a drink or two— sometimes even a glass of wine or something stronger.
But, today, she was out of it. She just took the ale and stared down into the mug. The froth faded away, revealing her reflection in the liquid’s golden-brown surface. Noele saw a stranger there. A blonde girl’s face she didn’t recognize. So foreign— so unfamiliar. For a single second, she didn’t even know that was her.
Slowly, she brought a hand up to her face. “I…”
“Is everything alright, Noele?” Garron asked as he peered over her shoulder.
Noele blinked and raised her head. “Wha— oh, I’m fine,” she quickly said.
“You don’t look fine.” The burly man lowered his mug of ale onto the table and crossed his arms. “We have been training together for weeks, Noele. Over a month at this point. If there’s a problem, you can confide in me.” He gave her a reassuring smile, despite the glare he always wore on his face.
“That’s…” she trailed off.
He was right in that the blonde girl wasn’t fine. But she couldn’t really vocalize her thoughts. Not in a way that made sense. She just felt… lost. All because of what Jax had said. It wasn’t even a statement directed to her. The fact that it impacted her so deeply puzzled her as much as it upsetted her.
When she couldn’t figure out a way to sort out her feelings, she just resorted to the usual question she always asked.
“Why did you become an adventurer, Garron?”
The burly man cocked a brow, not expecting that question. “Why did I become an adventurer?”
Noele nodded. “Why did you become an adventurer? Did you just do it on a whim? Or were you driven by some other purpose?”
“That is a loaded question for a party,” he chuckled and leant back on his seat. Garron made himself comfortable as he raised his head. “Well, if I had to ascribe a singular reason to my decision, it would be for revenge.”
“That’s right,” Garron said as his eyes sharpened. “My parents were [Merchants]. Both of them. That’s how they met— they were competitors in the same business who joined forces and got married. So they’d often travel between Bacton and Windrip to sell goods between the cities.”
The blonde girl listened as he went on, even if she already knew where this story was going.
“But, one day, when they both left for Bacton, they never returned. They were attacked by a darkwood moose. They traveled with a convoy, escorted by a party of C-ranked adventurers, but that didn’t matter— they were all slaughtered.”
Garron tightly clutched onto his mug of ale. He quickly took a swig of the drink as Noele closed her eyes. Of course, she told herself.
It was always the same reason. Adventurers only picked up the job for three reasons. The first was money, the second was glory, and the third was revenge because someone they knew was killed by a monster. Noele had heard it over and over again so many times.
It wasn’t that she didn’t sympathize with Garron. She was just hoping for a different answer.
The Steel Tank continued, “I do not know what happened that day. I am not sure what provoked the darkwood moose. While they are B-ranked threats, they are considered docile by the Adventurer’s Guild. And I didn’t care. I became an adventurer to seek out that darkwood moose— and kill it. To avenge my parents and all those that monster had senselessly slaughtered.”
“Did you manage to find it?” Noele asked, pressing her lips into a thin line.
“The moment I advanced to B-rank, I tried to hunt it down. I partnered with a [Hunter] to track the darkwood moose, but when I eventually found its lair, I was too late.” He chuckled mirthlessly as he glanced down at his drink. “The darkwood moose had already been killed by something else. I only realize now that it was probably slain by those goblins.”
“Right…” She stared at the burly man, unsure of what to say. Finally, she just placed a hand on his shoulder and spoke softly. “I am sorry.”
Garron raised his head and looked back with hollow eyes. “Don’t be. Vengeance is a foolish purpose, anyway.”
The two sat there in silence for a moment. Just a moment. Then Garron harrumphed and got to his feet. He downed the rest of his mug of ale and puffed up his chest.
“I am ruining the festivities,” he said as he slammed the mug onto the table. “Come on, this is a party. Let us celebrate.”
He started forward, joining the rest of the party. But Noele didn’t follow. She just excused herself instead.
“I have to, uh, use the…” she said.
“Ah. My apologies.” He nodded and stepped aside.
Noele hurried away towards the outer edge of the party— where it wasn’t so boisterous and crowded. She kept to the fringes, trying to calm her thoughts.
She still felt empty. Even after that conversation with Garron, the hole in heart didn’t vanish. It was like she’d been stabbed in the chest and she didn’t even realize it. Which made no sense, because this was a time for her to be proud of her achievements.
Noele thought of everything she had worked towards over the last few weeks. She had become an A-ranked adventurer, after so long. She had learned to fight without the World System— to a certain extent— and could create a Glorious Noble Slash that seemed dangerous even for an S-rank adventurer.
Despite all that, the blonde girl’s mind drifted to something else. Instead of remembering her accomplishments, she just thought of her parents. Her mama and papa. She remembered the last time she saw them— how they had refused to allow her to become an adventurer.
And she ran away.
Noele ran from her home, leaving her parents behind all by themselves just so she could take after her sister. Even though they said that they didn’t want her to get herself killed just like Nora, she ignored them and escaped, pursuing the life of an adventurer. And for what reason?
She didn’t know anymore. That was why her heart ached so much.
The blonde girl clenched a fist as she turned around. She held back her tears as she thought of her mama and papa— how she longed to see them now. Even though they had exchanged [Messages] through the Mage’s Guild. Even though she often sent back letters with money, apologizing for her sudden departure, it just wasn’t the same as seeing them again.
Maybe I should leave, Noele thought to herself as she started for the guild’s exit. I should go back to Whiteridge now— surprise them when they return from the Frozar Mountains.
There was no reason for her to do any of this anymore. Maybe she would bid farewell to Garron, but adventurers came and went all the time. The only person she really needed to speak with was…
Noele blinked as she raised her head. That was right. She was still supposed to be Amelia’s apprentice. So she couldn’t just leave yet— not until she told her mentor. So Noele searched for Amelia. The blonde girl scoured the room, having heard that Amelia was present at the party. She scanned the large hall until, finally, she caught sight of her mentor.
The blonde girl started forward, heading for the brown-haired woman. Then she paused. She stared at Amelia’s back.
“How long has she been standing there at the job board?” Noele blinked.
“Forty-five minutes,” a voice came in reply.
The blonde girl spun around to face Guildmaster Evan. He was looking down at a watch he held in his right hand. Adjusting his pointed hat, he spoke in an amused voice.
“It’s honestly quite impressive. She hasn’t moved in forty-five minutes.”
“...and why have you been timing her?”
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